Learn to say ‘no’, by journalling the ‘yes’

This very simple exercise is a great way to become aware of the times you say ‘yes’, when really you should (or want to) say ‘no’.

I have a client who finds it difficult to say no. Their endless ‘yesses’ (which in their words are part of ‘being a good team player’) often result in increasing pressure and delivering tasks at the cost to themselves and the things they should be prioritising.

We explored why this might not always be the best thing for them, or those they says ‘yes’ to (who might be missing out on opportunities to develop, learn and take ownership of tasks).

I set an exercise to ‘journal the yes’.

All my client had to do was…

  • make a note every time they said ‘yes’ when asked for help
  • note who they said ‘yes’ to
  • if they had time, consider why they think they said ‘yes’
  • note the times they weren’t asked but offered to help anyway

This is not an exercise in change (yet), but in becoming aware of what they were doing.

All change starts from awareness, and so by journalling the ‘yes’ – my client will begin to recognise how often they are putting others before themselves and begin to question if it really is helpful to always be quite so helpful.

The exercise is already having some impact, in that although my client isn’t saying a flat out ‘no’ to those wanting help, they are finding themselves saying ‘no, but…’ – and that in itself is a huge step forward.

The next exercise (give it some time yet) is to keep journaling but start to note what the ‘no, but…’ solutions are.

How can my client help people without actually carrying them?
– What might the impact be?
– How do their colleagues feel?

If you struggle to say ‘no’, or recognise yourself as always being the first to proffer help and assistance even when you have your own tasks to complete, then give the exercise above a go.



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